Sunday was our first hike in about a month since my husband and I were busy moving most of November. Late Sunday morning we headed up Angeles Crest Highway with a bunch of maps, but no real commitment to any particular trail. As we passed by the entrance to Switzer Camp the overflow parking along the highway didn’t look too busy. We turned in and headed down to see how it was looking. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too packed for a weekend. Some of the oaks were still holding onto their color, so it was a nice treat since we didn’t get to experience much of the fall weather this year. The stroll along the Arroyo Seco was very pleasant, and we crossed the stream a number of times. I think the last time we hiked this all the way to Bear Canyon Trail Camp last March, I counted a total of 50-something crossings round trip. It was a beautiful day. Perfect hiking weather; a little chilly to start, but we warmed up as we kept going. On the cliffs we passed by the ruins of the old Switzer-land chapel and then descended down towards Switzer Falls. We decided to forgo the falls this time and continue on to the Bear Canyon Trail knowing there’d be lots of pretty cascades along the way and a lot less traffic. We hiked in as far as the junction where the two streams intersect, and then continued on a bit farther to where the going becomes less maintained. We stopped about a mile short of the campground this time. It was getting later in the day and we wanted to make sure we got back before the sun started to set. It was a nice way to ease back into the hiking routine again, and we could not have asked for a more perfect day.Read More
On Wednesday morning we drove up to the White Mountains/Big Pine area to spend a day exploring the land of the ancients at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where a 4.5 mile hike journeys through the oldest living trees in the world. This is a high altitude hike starting out at over 10,000’ feet where the gnarled and twisted trees that look like something out of a Tim Burton movie cling to steep, arid, rocky slopes. The trees thrive in this severe environment and usually survive for over 2,000 years. Incredible! The trail makes its way down a canyon and into a grove of the ancient trees. As you hike down the south facing slope, you’ll note a dramatic transition where there is a wider variety of plants including sagebrush and mountain mahogany. Eventually you will enter the Methuselah Grove. This is where Edmund Schulman in 1957 discovered the Methuselah Tree which is over 4,600 years old. How amazing is that?!
Methuselah’s exact location is not disclosed to keep the tree protected from vandalism, but if you ask the rangers they’ll tell you that the best place to hide something is right in plain sight so you will walk right by the Methuselah Tree along the trek, but you may never figure out exactly which one he is. After the hike we stopped into the Schulman Grove Visitor Center to get some souvenirs and check out the interpretive exhibits. Ranger Dave gave us an informative talk about the Ancient Bristlecone Pines and I am pretty sure I learned more about trees in that 30 minute chat then I ever did when I was in school! I highly recommend stopping in if you want to learn more about these magnificent ancient trees.Read More
We’ve been doing a lot of canyon hikes lately. Devil’s Canyon was another one I’ve had on my “to do” list since we’ve been driving past it on the way to other hikes. The trail takes you down into the rugged San Gabriel Wilderness. It follows a babbling brook into the heart of Devil’s Canyon where it opens up to flat, sandy trail next to sparkling pools, cascades and smooth boulders that make a great place to have lunch. There’s also a primitive backcountry campground that you can stay at just a little further up the trail. I liked this hike a lot. The trail is quite narrow in many spots so you need to stay focused, but it’s not sketchy. The grade is also gradual, so climbing up isn’t so bad since you’ll gain all your elevation on the way out.Read More
It was 6:30 am Sunday morning and we were on the trail headed to Trail Canyon Falls, a beautiful waterfall cascading 30 feet down into a rugged canyon. What this hike lacks in distance, it makes up for in beautiful scenery. The trail to the falls winds through the canyon and crosses the creek several times before heading up to the top of the waterfall where you’ll have spectacular views looking straight down. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also descend a steep use trail where you can rock scramble your way down with the help of a rope tied to a tree to get to the base of the falls. Today the water was flowing beautifully, the wildflowers were blooming and butterflies were on the wing. Since we started so early, we shared the falls with only two other hikers. It was a very peaceful morning. As we headed back, I came upon a very hungry swallowtail who was so busy nectaring on Western Wallflower that he didn’t seem to mind me hovering over him with my camera to take some photos. Also, if you keep your eyes peeled, there’s a picnic table nestled away in the shade off to the side of the trail that makes for a great place for a snack break or even a picnic. We stopped there for a bite to eat before finishing up the hike. It was an absolutely perfect day with temperatures at about 65 degrees at 10:30 am when we arrived back at the trailhead.
Today was an epic day full of history! We arrived at the locked gate at Chantry Flat Road about 10 minutes ‘til 6 just before the sheriff arrived to open it. We then drove up the windy road to the parking area at Chantry Flats, displayed our Adventure Pass and off we went into the Big Santa Anita Canyon. This place was beautiful! I immediately forgot I was only 25 minutes from our house in the city; towering oaks, a village of rustic cabins along a creek and lush, green ivy cascading the canyon walls. We trekked creekside along the Gabrielino Trail enjoying the scenery before we reached Fiddler’s Crossing where we followed a short spur trail to Sturtevant Falls. We then backtracked to the Lower Gabrielino trail and traveled onward and upward towards Sturtevant Camp. The Lower Gabrielino trail took us up above the falls which was pretty cool since I’d never actually been on top of a waterfall before. But be warned, the trail here is mostly jagged rock cut into the canyon wall, and there was one section in particular where it got a little sketchy due to erosion from the rains. Besides that section, the rest of the trip is on a lovely, well maintained path. Next, we headed up towards Spruce Grove camp and picked up the Sturtevant Trail to the historic Sturtevant Camp, established in 1893. When we arrived, Brad, the host, greeted us welcomingly. We chatted with him for quite a while and he showed us around the buildings which date back to “The Great Hiking Era”. He also gave us a little history about the place and showed us inside the Sturtevant Lodge which has a kitchen, a dining hall and a fireplace room with an old piano. On the walls, you can see photos of Mr. Wilbur Sturtevent himself. At the turn of the century there were five resorts built here. Sturtevant Camp is the only one that remains, and it’s still functioning! You can rent the cabins, but there is no wifi, cell phone service, computers or TV, and your things will have to be brought up by mules from Adam’s Pack Station. How cool is that! For more information, you can check out this link: http://sturtevantcamp.com/ After leaving camp, we got back on the Sturtevant Trail to the Upper Zion trail which took us to the spur for Mount Zion. In just a short climb we were at the summit looking back at Mount Wilson. After enjoying the view, we headed down and continued on the Upper Zion trail. This section didn’t have much shade and the switchbacks were steep. I was glad we were going down and not up! Eventually, the trail dropped us back into the cool, shady canyon passing through Hoegee’s camp and onto the Winter Creek Trail before reaching our car parked at Chantry Flats. We ended our adventure with ice cream from Adam’s Pack Station General store. I would have loved to have seen the mules, but they were busy working today and making a delivery to Sturtevant Camp. This was a really great hike with a little bit of everything; beautiful scenery, a waterfall, unique history and even a peak. We will definitely take this route again through Sturtevant Camp when we hike to Mount Wilson!Read More
Hit the trail early Thanksgiving morning to hike Cucamonga Peak. We started up Icehouse Canyon at 5:30 am. This was our third time up this trail to Icehouse Saddle which is a gateway to other trails including Cucamonga Peak. It used to be a challenge, but it’s getting easier every time. We entered the Cucamonga Wilderness just before the sun came up, and by 8 am we were at Icehouse Saddle. We stopped for a snack, and it wasn’t long before other hikers arrived. One of them was heading to the same destination as we were. He was using the trail to train for other peaks. After the break, we hopped on the next segment to Cucamonga Peak. This is where the real hike began. From here on out we were on much more rugged terrain with narrow sections, steep cliffs and rock scrambles. It was one of those hikes where you really had to watch your footing. Next came the switchbacks. Some sections were all scree and talus. It was a hard climb and my fear of heights being on a narrow ledge with loose rock and steep drops was starting to kick in. I had to stop and take breaks to keep my zen. I could see the peak, but it seemed a million miles away. Up and up we went moving slowly, but making progress with each careful step. We were less then half a mile away from the peak when we saw the young hiker we’d met at Icehouse Saddle coming down. “Almost there.” he said. “Take short steps and use your poles.” After a few more switchbacks I spotted the marker for the spur trail leading up to the peak just ahead. What a relief! We made our final ascent up a steep but well buffed out section of trail. Finally I saw the wooden sign, “Cucamonga Peak 8,859’”. Whew! That was rough! The views from the peak were vast and sprawling overlooking the city and all the way out to the San Jacinto and Santa Ana mountain ranges. We took a long break to rest our tired legs and celebrate Thanksgiving morning with yesterday’s leftover pizza! On the way down my overactive mind calmed down. Although I still had to be careful with my footing, I was in a much better headspace. The hard part was over. I was able to soak in the incredible views of the remote wilderness and enjoy the trek down this beautiful mountain. The switchbacks seemed to go a lot faster on the way down, but we still had to negotiate our way through rugged trail back to Icehouse Saddle. Once at the saddle, we still had about 3 miles to go to get back to the trailhead. Luckily, the canyon is so pretty, it makes those last miles go quick. We finished the hike (including our breaks and all my picture taking) in about 8 hours and 50 minutes. We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving day on Friday knowing we earned those extra slices of pumpkin pie!Read More